Christ is Risen
Today is the day! Today is the day that changed the world forever. Today is the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead! Christians profess that today is THE pivotal moment in human history. It’s the holy day of all holy days! The day when death met its match, the day that somebody made it out alive. Today makes it clear that life, light, and love have the last word. Today is the day that changed everything. Today is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord!
You might not get that idea from reading the Gospel of Mark today. There’s not a lot of celebrating from the women at the sight of the empty tomb. For those who lived through the first Easter, the day was less about joy and celebration and was a lot more confusing and chaotic, marked by terror and amazement, surprise and fear, hope and doubt.
Imagine yourself in the place of the women. You’d seen your beloved friend and teacher die a horrible death on the cross. All your hopes destroyed. Someone you loved tortured and executed. The evil and cruelty of the human race snuffed out the light of the world. And now you approach his tomb to anoint his body and pay your final respects. On the way you wonder how you’ll move the stone so you can get to his remains. But when you get there you see that the stone is rolled away and there’s a young man in white who looks kinda like an angel who says Jesus has been raised and is going to meet you in Galilee. You’re amazed and you’re afraid and you run away in shock and bewilderment.
And that’s it, that’s the end of the Gospel of Mark. Mark seems to have wanted his story to end on a sudden cliff-hanger. There’s later additions added to Mark’s unsatisfying ending, but what we read today is the original conclusion of the Gospel. There’s an empty tomb, but no sight of Jesus. There’s confusion, uncertainty, chaos, and bewilderment. It’s not all joy and celebration. It’s joy mixed with terror, amazement mixed with uncertainty, fear mixed with new-found hope.
Mark purposely leaves us on the edge of our seats. Leaves us just as perplexed by this ending as the women were on that first Easter morning. To give us a sense of what it was like to find the tomb empty. To give us a taste of the holy chaos surrounding this day. The excitement and bewilderment, the optimism and fear, the sorrow turned to wonder.
And then there’s the fact that Mark says, “They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” Afraid of what? Afraid that people would think they’re crazy? Afraid that Jesus or the angel might be dangerous? After all, Jesus might have a score to settle with some folks in Jerusalem. Whatever it was they were afraid of, they obviously got over it and eventually told the whole world. But Mark doesn’t tell us that. The way Mark ends his Gospel is with them not telling anyone. Perhaps this is meant to shock us into action. If the women didn’t tell anyone, then it’s up to us readers to tell the world about this amazing thing that has happened!
Mark leaves off on a cliff-hanger telling us they said nothing to anyone, because Mark wants his readers to go tell everything to everyone. This sense of incompleteness in the Gospel of Mark is there because the story is incomplete without us! The story continues on with the early Christians who read Mark’s Gospel and spread the message. And the story continues on with us as we read Mark’s Gospel and spread the message.
And if you don’t think you’re worthy to spread the message. If you don’t think you’re certain enough, or faithful enough, or holy enough, or theologically astute enough—remember: the first witnesses didn’t have any idea what was going on either! And after thousands of years of reflection and study, of theological debates and atonement theories, we still don’t really get it. All we know is that Jesus somehow set the world right with God, and that through his death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sin, new life, and salvation. In some mysterious way beyond our comprehension Jesus Christ has reconciled the world with God.
That’s the Good News we share. That’s the Good News we know to be true. That’s the Good News preached in every Gospel, foretold in the Old Testament, and interpreted throughout the rest of the New Testament. That through Jesus Christ God has reconciled the world to Himself, freed us from the power of sin, death, and the devil—and brought us to life, freedom, and salvation.
In these times the world needs Good News. After a year of a global pandemic where many have died or lost loved ones, experienced loneliness or depression, endured the financial strain of a lockdown, been sick without healthcare. This year has been a metaphorical period in the tomb for many of us. We are eager for resurrection. We are eager for new life. And so maybe this year more than others, the world needs to hear this Good News! After having gone through so much, this world needs resurrection!
Of course, the world has always suffered. People have always experienced hardship. Jesus’ contemporaries lived under conditions we can barely imagine, where sickness was a near constant and food insecurity was always just a bad harvest away. People lived under an oppressive Roman Empire and a corrupt Temple establishment. It was a world where might made right and where the torturous death of crucifixion was a common occurrence.
World history has continued to see violence and suffering, wars and crusades, greed an exploitation, cruelty and betrayal, sin and death. But it was into this world, full of sin and sorrow, that Jesus Christ entered. It was for this world that Jesus Christ died and rose again.
Perhaps the sadness and suffering of this world explains why the women at the tomb didn’t immediately jump for joy at the news that Jesus had risen. Perhaps in such a tragic world, it takes time for this truly Good News to sink in. Even for lifelong Christians I think coming to terms with Jesus’ death and Resurrection is a lifelong journey. Not that we need to understand it, we can’t fully comprehend it. But this mystery we profess is at the center of God’s action in the world. In a world with so much fear and anxiety, Jesus Christ is risen! In a world still full of suffering and death, Jesus Christ is risen! In a world where sin still seems to have more power than love, Jesus Christ is risen!
And so we Christians carry the Resurrection with us. We carry this Good News and we share it with any and all. Because we know that in Jesus we are freed from the power of death. We have nothing to fear. We have eternal life in God. We have the love and peace and power of God guiding us through this life, and guiding us home when we die. Because Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed Alleluia!
April 4, 2021